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Is your email marketing stale?

You know what I mean. You send the same weekly or monthly update to the same people. You don’t put much thought into subject lines. You barely even check your open and click rates, let alone spend time trying to improve them.

You aren’t alone.

It’s not unusual for marketers to get in an email marketing rut given everything on their plates. For this exact reason, we created a list of ways to jumpstart your email efforts.

These are things you can do today.

What are you waiting for?

1. Create an inbox swipe file.

This is the first and most important thing you can do to improve your own email marketing. First, setup a label (in Gmail) or folder in your inbox and title it “Swipe File.” Anytime you see a great subject line, a good offer, a beautiful design or great copy, just add the message to your swipe file. Pretty soon, you’ll have a repository of inspiration that you can tap into when you are working on your own campaigns.

To make this even more powerful, set up individual labels or folders depending on why the email caught your attention. Example: Create a folder for “Great Subject Lines” so you’ll always remember why you set aside the email for later. Add a few emails each day and, soon, you’ll have hundreds of ideas for writing better emails.

Here’s how my swipe file looks:

swipe file example

One other easy way to use your own inbox to inspire you is to track your competitors. You can do this by setting up filters to automatically organize the messages and use IFTTT to archive them in Evernote for analysis.

2. Find every customer touch point.

Your customers and leads could be receiving emails about you and from you that you didn’t send. How is that possible?

Many businesses use third parties to send transactional email. It makes sending webinar confirmations and monthly invoices super easy but it can also be a missed marketing opportunity or, worse, a negative representation of your brand.

Check out this very common webinar confirmation email. It’s from Copyblogger but it’s really from Citrix. It uses a Citrix email address and even links to the Citrix website!

copyblogger-confirmation-email

Avoid this at all costs. Even though it gets the required job done, it’s a few seconds of your audience’s attention that you can never get back.

3. Send an A/B test.

You don’t have to be too tech-savvy to send really smart A/B tests. If data-driven marketing intimidates you, start small.

A simple subject line split test will give you really valuable data for your next email, assuming you are testing the right things. In order to learn something, you have to be willing to go out on a limb. You have to step outside your comfort zone.

Once, I A/B tested these two subject lines:

  • 5 Reasons Why Email Marketing Fails
  • Why Email Marketing Fails

What did I learn? Next to nothing.

The next time I ran a subject line A/B test, I tried two very different approaches to the subject line.

  • Content isn’t the only way…
  • Learn from the pros: How to build an awesome community

“Content isn’t the only way…” generated five percent more opens. Now I know that short subject lines resonate with our readers and I can apply that knowledge to my next test.

One other simple A/B test you can try is plain text emails vs. HTML emails. Keep the subject line the same so you can measure the clicks without skewing data from the open rate. Depending on the type of email — promotional, transactional or behavioural — you will have varying degrees of success with plain text or HTML. Every audience is different and it’s worth testing to learn more about them.

If you are ready to take A/B testing to the next level, check out this awesome presentation from KISSmetrics.

4. Learn to write better copy.

Your marketing is a performance so why aren’t you training to improve?

All marketing centers around effective communication. Whether you are crafting your next email campaign, writing content for your blog or drafting 140-character masterpieces, communication, and specifically writing, is at the core of it all. Here are a few resources to improve your writing:

And here are a few writing tips that I swear by:

  • Use sub-headers and bullet points to break up content.
  • Don’t force it. Take breaks, drink coffee and listen to relaxing music.
  • Use different tools for writing. I go back and forth between Draft, Mou, iA Writer, Google Docs and Pages. I also use Trello to keep track of ideas and write outlines.
  • Write every day, even if it’s stream of consciousness or just crazy ideas.

However you choose to do it, spend time perfecting your craft.

5. Segment your lists.

The people on your email list haven’t all ended up there in the same way. Some subscribed to a newsletter while others are past customers. And they don’t all have the same needs, even if they have shown interest in your product or service at some point. It’s time to stop treating them all the same way. Segmenting your email lists can start with basic groups and eventually evolve to dynamic lists that change based on user behavior.

Here are a few ways to get started segmenting your list so you can send better, more targeted emails:

  • Tag your best customers and keep them separate. These people buy often and aren’t afraid to spend money. You want to make sure they aren’t getting generic emails. Once they are segmented, send them emails that make them feel specials. No 10% coupons for these folks … they want value, not deals.
  • Separate anyone who has never spent a dime on your product. These folks are leads, not customers, and should be treated accordingly. They need informative emails with strong calls to action and a value proposition that will keep their attention.
  • Identify “cold” users and warm them up. Look for people who haven’t opened an email in the last six months and put them on a separate list. Whatever you are doing isn’t working, so try something new. One idea is to load their email addresses into Twitter Ads and starting showing them targeted ads before starting a new warm-up campaign.

6. Upgrade your toolbox.

This section is re-purposed from our big post of 54 Essential Email Marketing Resources but it’s one of the easiest ways to upgrade your marketing fast.

Tools

This is a potentially endless category, so we intentionally kept this list short. Here are some of the best and most useful email marketing tools out there.

  • Google URL Builder: This is the easiest way to keep track of clicks from email campaigns in Google Analytics. This tool makes it easy to set parameters, which can easily be tracked. CrazyEgg has a really useful tutorial on the topic. Pro tip: Buffer uses this feature, and you can customize the tracking in your settings, under “Link Shortening.”
  • Dropbox: For those rare occasions when you need to send an attachment — an e-book download, a receipt, etc. — use Dropbox to send a link rather than a file. Your recipients’ inboxes will appreciate it.
  • Litmus: This is an awesome way to see how your email will look in 30 different email clients. It’s a cool way to ensure your emails are mobile-ready. Litmus also offers advanced tracking and spam-filter testing.
  • Zapier: Think IFTTT on steroids. Zapier allows you to connect web apps to each other via a simple interface. KISSmetrics famously used Zapier to supercharge webinar registrations by 1,000 percent! Because you can connect a number of enterprise applications — Unbounce, GoToMeeting, Github, Salesforce, Freshbooks, Help Scout and many more — it’s possible to automate all kinds of tasks, including data collection.
  • Gmail Labels: It’s simple, yes, but Gmail Labels are the perfect way to create an email swipe file. When you see an email you like and want to borrow ideas from, simply drag it into your swipe file. Pretty soon, you will have a treasure trove of ideas for subject lines, email copy and growth hacks.

What steps are you taking to improve your email marketing? Let us know in the comments.

Photo via Thomas Leuthard

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Jimmy is a marketer, writer, photographer and runner based in Tucson, Ariz. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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